An invitation to come home

by susan on April 16, 2018

This is the message that was shared on Sunday, April 8th during our gathering. It is part of our “Embody: practicing resurrection through our bodies” series & is based on John 21:1-14.

I came across a painting this week that captured my attention. It’s a painting by David Hayward entitled “I Embrace My Roots” (to the right). When he tweeted it, he added this description,

“I’ve chosen to respect and not reject my roots.“

It got me thinking about all the ways we reject our roots – and, I’m not even talking so much about our upbringing or our families of origin.

I’m thinking bigger than that.

I’m thinking about our rootedness in creation,
our common purpose as human beings,
our sense that we are part of something
extraordinary & beautiful & beyond our grasp.

I’m also thinking about how that rejection leaves us feeling adrift, uprooted & disconnected. We all know that feeling.

According to Maya Angelou, “The ache for home lives in all of us…” but I believe we have no idea how to come home or to be at home.

But we do know this: Although disconnection is a universal human experience, disconnection is not God’s design or God’s hope or even God’s future plan for us – at least not according to Scripture.

God, the way Scripture explains it, designed us to enjoy deep connection with God through the earth, with one another & even with our selves (including our bodies).

Our original home is described in Genesis as a garden where our bodies were not only breathed life into, but were blessed & called good. We were free to eat & enjoy & share & savor.

We were also given a purpose –
to continue the work of creation –
to take care of the earth & to take care of each other.

It’s a picture of deep connection. It’s a picture of being rooted & a portrait of being home.

That picture though gets disrupted when Adam and Eve eat forbidden fruit. The communion is broken & these first humans experience shame, not just over their wrongdoing, but of their bodies. They recognize their nakedness (Gen. 3:8) & cover their bodies as they leave the garden.

The entire Old Testament tells the story of the consequences of disconnection from home & of God’s desire for us to return – maybe not physically, but at least metaphorically to a place of deep communion with Creator & creation.

So much of the disconnect described in the OT has to do with bodies. There are bodies that malfunction, bodies that do & do not bear children, bodies that are plagued with illness & disease, bodies that are disregarded & even objectified, bodies that are raped, bodies that are turned into machines to produce for the empire …

bodies that long for home & healing.

And then along comes Jesus.

In Jesus, we not only see what being at home with God looks like, we are invited to come home ourselves. That brings us (finally) to our reading for today & this reading is full of reminders of our disconnection. [If you have not read it yet, now is a good time.]

This is the second time  Jesus has appeared to Peter & the others & they still struggle to recognize him. Maybe they were too busy or his appearance was different – it’s hard to know for sure. Either way, this portrait illustrates the divide so well (see image to right: Christ Appears on the Shore of Lake Tiberia by James Tissot, 1886-1894.) The disciples are back to work & even though Jesus has already appeared to them once & even though he first called them to come & follow by a seashore, they do not recognize him.

Until something extraordinary happens.

They have been fishing all night in the dark and have caught nothing, but when Jesus tells them to cast their nets in a different direction, suddenly they have more fish than they can haul in. Then Peter does something very Peter-like.

Now remember, Peter may have seen Jesus once, but he has not yet had a conversation with Jesus about that little episode by the charcoal fire where he denied even knowing him. But Peter being Peter, when he recognizes Jesus, impulsively jumps into the water to get to Jesus as fast as he can.

Forget the fact that they still need to finish hauling in the fish.
Forget the fact that his friends still need his help.

Like we often fail to do, Peter has not yet made the connection between following hard after Jesus & the way he treats his fellow followers.

Let’s stop here for a minute though because we can miss so much in a surface level reading of scripture. This is about more than Peter’s impulsiveness.

Peter is going home.
He is about to experience resurrection for himself.

All the symbolic signs are there: It was dark, but now it’s morning & light is breaking through. There is water everywhere, a symbol of creation & cleansing & new life. There were none but now there is an overabundance of fish (think the miraculous feeding of the multitudes or Jesus turning water into wine). There is also the charcoal fire – this one instead of being a place of denial & shame has Jesus standing by it ready to share a reunion meal of fish and bread with his friends.

Peter is going home.
He is about to experience resurrection for himself.

This homecoming will only become more rich & beautiful when after these verses, the gospel of John tells us about a 1:1 between Peter & Jesus in which Jesus restores Peter’s sense of both belonging & purpose.

Jesus reroots Peter to his place in God’s story & in our disconnectedness, God invites us home to experience this same re-rootedness.

We too are invited back into
a state of communion,
a place of deep purpose &
a relationship of eternal belonging.

Not just someday, not just in some other place.

Here and now.
In our bodies & on this earth.

The challenge though is that we are constantly told not to be at home in either.

We are told not to be at home in our bodies. Marketers tell us to be discontent with our bodies – to purchase these clothes to make your body look more attractive & to buy these foods to comfort you & to get this surgery to enhance you. Our bodies are commodified & objectified. They are talked about & treated like they have no sacred value or worth. They are tools, we are told, for pleasure & reproduction alone, something made to satisfy our urges.

Advertisers present us with the perfect body & tell us that until we have one, we will never be worthy of love or belonging. We are made to feel dissatisfied, to want something other than our own bodies.

Home is always just one more purchase, one more method, one more pound & one more modification away.

It’s not just marketers that tell us not to feel at home in our bodies – we Christians have done that, too. Instead of teaching about bodies as God’s good creation, we have turned bodies into sources of sin & shame. Preaching don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance & certainly don’t have sex has only led us to feel ashamed of our bodies & when we are ashamed what do we do?

We hide. We lie. We pretend. We give up & walk away.
Shame always separates; it never reconnects us to God.

When Jesus asked folks to deny themselves or to stop sinning, it was never to separate them. It was to help them reconnect with what was good & meaningful & lasting. There was always a next step. He didn’t stop at defeating sin. He invited anyone who would listen to practice a new way of living.

We have too often failed to do that.
We have stopped with “do not” & it’s been a harmful, dead-end path.

Our healing though comes from reconnecting to our roots –
coming home to a place of worth & communion,
a place of belonging & purpose.

That purpose was first and foremost to care for the earth & I don’t need to tell you that we have separated ourselves from that responsibility. We have too often made our faith about escaping here to go somewhere else. There is a someday, but for Jesus there is most importantly a here and a now.

Reconnection is how we practice resurrection.

By reconnecting with our bodies,
by reconnecting our bodies to this earth &
by reconnecting with one another we experience the world as God intended it.

We experience renewal, healing & we experience heaven on earth.

What could reconnection look like for you & I? What would it look like for us to come home to a greater sense of belonging & purpose within creation? What is one small thing you can do this week to begin moving in that direction?

Previous post:

Next post: